This is going to be a very brief recap. As a die-hard Devils fan, it is very hard for me to continue writing about such horrible displays of hockey. I am really not sure where to start on this one: bad goaltending, even worse defense, or so many missed opportunities? Wherever I begin, the New Jersey Devils had all three of those things tonight, and it was extremely evident. As if you did not already know, this was the Devils' fifth straight loss.
The Maple Leafs opened the scoring 10:34 into the game on a fluke goal from Nazem Kadri (his ninth of the season). Johan Hedberg was caught out of position when Kadri went to center the puck; Moose was late with the poke check and was too far off of the goal post. The puck deflected off Hedberg's stick and through his legs into the back of the net. New Jersey out-shot the Maple Leafs, 8-5, in the first, but trailed heading into the locker room.
Marek Zidlicky took matters into his own hands in the middle period. Zidlicky scored off the faceoff just 5:43 into the second to tie the game at one. Zidlicky's second goal of the year came on an assist from Ryan Carter and shifted the momentum to the Jersey side.
In a carbon copy of the first Devils goal, Zidlicky scored on a beautiful feed from Carter 11:18 into the second. The goal solidified the momentum shift and put New Jersey out in front for the first time by a score of 2-1. Again, the Devils out-shot Toronto, 10-5, in the middle frame. This time, however, they skated to the locker room with the lead.
The lead did not last too long, however, as Toronto was able to tie things up just 39 seconds into the third. Jay McClement netted his third of the season to pull the Leafs even. His goal came unassisted and was also the result of some questionable goaltending. McClement's shot hit off the pipe (which Hedberg SHOULD have been hugging) and deflected off Hedberg into the net. A very easy shot that could have been saved led to a tie game and a momentum shift.
And when it rains, it pours.
Andrei Loktionov was called for tripping 7:17 into the final period. Toronto wasted no time capitalizing on the opportunity; Clarke MacArthur tallied his sixth goal of the season just eight seconds later to put his team out in front. Moose's five hole tonight was wide enough to parallel park a car in.
As the Devils looked to even things up, they had a few good chances. Elias, for the second time in as many games, had a golden opportunity to bury a one-timer while wide open in front of the net. Yet again, however, Elias failed to elevate the puck and was denied the opportunity by Toronto goalie James Reimer.
Missed chances were the story of the game for the Devils tonight. Photo by REUTERS/Mark Blinch.
Phil Kessel put the game out of reach for the Devils 9:52 into the third. Marek Zidlicky got caught in the offensive zone and left Andy Greene back to defend a 2-on-1 that came as a result of a quick outbreak from Toronto. Greene left the passing lane wide open and allowed James van Riemsdyk an easy pass across to Kessel. Greene HAS to dive in this situation in order to eliminate the pass; Hedberg can cover the short-side shot if the pass is defended against.
- The Devils missed several opportunities to score tonight, and that is not going to help win hockey games. Alexei Ponikarovsky did his best Mark Fayne impression by missing a wide open net in the first period when New Jersey was trailing by one. Elias could not come through in the clutch (again). It is getting redundant.
- Johan Hedberg did not play his best game tonight. I have defended Moose since the beginning of this rough stretch, but three of the four Toronto goals were on him tonight. Rookie Keith Kinkaid needs to play tomorrow against Tampa. We have nothing to lose.
- I am not sure what will turn this team around and provide a boost of energy. But it has to happen soon. The Devils are slowly falling in the Eastern Conference standings and need to get back on the right track. I know, I am preaching to the choir with this one, but it needed to be said.
- And for the love of hockey, can we please bench Henrik Tallinder tomorrow? He has literally done nothing to help the Devils since his goal against the New York Islanders back on January 31. That goal was not spectacular, either; The Devils dropped that game by a score of 5-4 in overtime.
The Devils will be back at it again tomorrow night on home ice. New Jersey will square up against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-3 this evening. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM.